AIKO ROBINSON – pillowed on water – 10 Nov-4 Dec 2020

“For those who are familiar with my previous works this exhibition may come as a small surprise. I’ve typically favoured the monochrome, and if on the rare occasion when I introduced colour, it was with a subdued and subtle palette inspired by the Japanese Ukiyoe artists of the 17th and 19th centuries (Edo period). When I first made the decision to make changes to my art process I wanted to let go of controlled lines and fine detail and explore the materiality and potential of watercolour paint. For several months I worked on a series of works that were not a complete abstraction, but at least comparatively looser than what I had been creating until then.

I experimented with strong colours and applied them with large brushes, finding the experience at first both terrifying and liberating. I allowed the watercolour to spread and pool on the paper, and loved the natural and unique forms they created when dry. These forms are like smoke, they are organic and fluid. They are also bodily and fleshy. I felt drawn to the textures created by watercolour washes, perhaps because they are similar to those created by tusche, a watery drawing medium used in lithography. Though I have defined these works as paintings, my training in printmaking has informed a lot of the mark-making and composition. I am by nature a printmaker and I am passionate about drawing. After experimenting with looser brushstrokes and large colour areas I felt the urge to reintroduce fine lines and enjoyed the tension between the expansiveness of watercolour and the areas of tight linear detail. There is a sort of motion created in the rhythm and fluidity of paint which could perhaps allude to the sexual acts I depict. The scale and composition of these works requires them to be seen with some distance but the textures and patterns need to be viewed up close. Within some fabric detailing you will find mussel and mushroom patterns. This is a recurring motif in my work and an homage to the Edo artists. Japanese erotic art, Shunga (“Spring pictures”), otherwise known as Warai-e (“Laughing pictures”) are full of humour and word play. In the same way, I use the image of the mushroom and mussel as a sexual euphemism, a humorous play on phallic and vulvic forms.

While my work has significantly changed since Folding in Forests, my 2018 exhibition at PG, these paintings are not a complete departure. The figures are still stylised, reduced to clean simple lines. The body is still clothed, though instead of a kimono they now wear underwear and are partially covered by bed sheets. Possibly the biggest difference is that the body is now more exposed, not hidden by the branches, leaves in the shadows of forests. The viewing experience is therefore a little different. Perhaps it feels more bold, yet in some ways it seems all the more private and intimate.

These works are about love, mutual pleasure and equality between sexual partners. They mean to challenge prevailing ideas regarding pornography in contemporary society. When sexual desires and fantasies are repressed it can be damaging to our intimate relating and can lead us to feel frustrated and perhaps even critical of others. I think that the desire to have sex is not only normal but something wonderful and to celebrate. To love, to pleasure and to treat your sexual partner with respect is beautiful. The curiosity to look at sexual images is human and healthy. I want to provide a platform for people to talk about sex in an open and positive environment.”

Aiko Robinson, November 2020.